Policy Matters — 16 January 2014 (announcements from PFLAG National Offices)

PFLAG-PolicyMattersThis information comes to us from the National PFLAG organization:

TAKE ACTION
Early next month, PFLAG National–as a member of the ENDA Coalition and supporter of the Americans for Workplace Opportunity (AWO) ENDA Campaign–will begin a special, targeted effort to bring an inclusive ENDA to the House floor for a vote.

PFLAG National’s Lobby Day was the last organizational advocacy effort before the historic, successful Senate vote in 2013; we know that PFLAGers’ unique family voices made a difference. We still have time in the 113th Congress to move ENDA forward, and we’ll be working for its passage this year. No one sends the family message as effectively as PFLAGers, so be ready to take action as this effort gets underway.

Learn more about ENDA–as well as PFLAG’s other workplace equality efforts–at pflag.org/workplacefairness.

IN THE NEWS
Federal Government Recognizes Same-Sex Marriages Performed in Utah

The federal government announced it will recognize the approximately 1,360 same-sex marriages performed in Utah between December 20th, 2013 and January 6th, 2014. The announcement came from Attorney General Eric Holder, who noted the Utah state government’s decision not to do the same. U.S. District Court Judge Robert J. Shelby ruled that the state’s ban on same-sex couples’ marriages was unconstitutional, opening the doors to marriage equality in the state, but the state of Utah is appealing that decision. The U.S. Supreme Court has put the decision on hold until the appeals court has ruled. Meanwhile, both Maryland and Washington State have announced that they will also recognize these marriages.

Nation’s Longest-Pending Marriage Equality Case Progresses Favorably: Federal Judge Finds Oklahoma’s Ban on Same-Sex Marriage Unconstitutional
On January 14th, U.S. District Court Judge Terence Kern ruled Oklahoma’s ban on same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional. The ruling was for the longest-pending marriage equality case in the country, filed in 2004 by lead counsel Don Holladay– longtime PFLAG dad and husband of PFLAG National regional director Kay Holladay–on behalf of Mary Bishop and Sharon Baldwin who were denied a marriage license from the Tulsa County Clerk. The judge’s ruling held that Oklahoma’s constitutional amendment limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples violates the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment. Judge Kern, appointed by President Clinton in 1994, issued a stay of his decision based on the recent Supreme Court action granting a stay in what he deemed “a nearly identical case” that challenges Utah’s ban on same-sex couples’ marriages. You can read Judge Kern’s filed opinion here.

NIAA Allows High School Students Sports Participation in Accord with Gender Identity
The Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association (NIAA) issued a Gender Identity Participation Position Statement stating that “a transgender student athlete at the high-school level shall be allowed to participate in NIAA-sanctioned sports in accordance with his or her gender identity, irrespective of the gender listed on the student’s birth certificate or other school records, and regardless of whether the student has undergone any medical treatment.” You can read the full NIAA statement and guidelines here. According to the new guidelines, a student may request a review of his or her eligibility through a procedure outlined in the statement. If the request is granted, the student does not have go through the procedure for subsequent sports seasons or years. Nevada’s Equal Rights Commission’s Employment Non-Discrimination Policy is also inclusive of gender identity.

CA Opponents’ Petition Against AB1266 Requires Detailed Validation
Opponents want to repeal California’s new law, AB1266, which ensures that transgender students have access to facilities and activities with respect to their gender identity. The spot-check verification of signatures of California residents who support the repeal revealed enough valid signatures to proceed with a full signature validation, but fell short of the number needed to move immediately forward on a November ballot referendum. The next step? All 619,244 signatures turned in by the opposition must now be verified with 504,760 of those needing to be valid in order to put the repeal up for a vote in November. Watch for the 30 business day vote count to end around Feb. 24. Stay tuned to Policy Matters and PFLAG National for more as it occurs.

NJ Governor Christie Vetoes Legislature-Passed Birth Certificate Amendment Bill
On January 13th, Governor Chris Christie vetoed a bill–previously successfully passed by The New Jersey legislature–which would have eased requirements for transgender people seeking an amended birth certificate to allow federal identify documents to be corrected. The bill, the purpose of which is “to acknowledge that individuals do not necessarily undergo sex reassignment surgery when changing sex, and to revise the process for obtaining an amended certificate of birth due to a change in sex to reflect current practices,” was approved in the Assembly with a vote of 43-27 (with seven abstentions) and by the Senate with a 21-11 vote. In order to override the veto, 54 votes are needed in the state Assembly and 27 votes are needed in the state Senate; proponents surmise that this tally is unlikely to be reached. New Jersey advocates vow to continue efforts to get this passed bill into law.

Indiana House Judiciary Committee Hears Testimony on HJR-3, Recesses Without Vote
On Monday, January 13th, The Indiana House Judiciary Committee held its hearing on HJR-3, the proposed constitutional amendment that would ban protections for same-sex and unmarried couples. The renamed bill would permanently define marriage as between one man and one woman and would remove existing legal protections for same-sex and unmarried couples and families. The Committee heard nearly four hours of testimony on the amendment and recessed without taking a vote.

New Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe Bans Discrimination Against LGBT State Employees
On January 11th–the same day and first act after being sworn in–Governor Terry McAuliffe signed an executive order banning discrimination against state employees based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, an historic act at the state level. Governor McAuliffe’s inauguration took place against the backdrop of two federal lawsuits currently challenging Virginia’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

ON POLICY, LEGISLATION, AND LITIGATION
The federal government returned from its holiday recess on Tuesday, January 14th. Action on bills and federal policy will resume shortly.

DEAR POLICY MATTERS
Dear Policy Matters:

I read last week that the U.S. State Department issued a special travel advisory for U.S. travelers attending the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia next month to be attentive for their personal safety. This is what I read on safety tips. How do I know whether it’s safe to travel as an LGBT person anywhere in the world, and how can I continue to monitor the Sochi travel safety guidelines?

Signed,
Focused on Travel Safety

Dear FOTS:

The U.S. Department of State has, since 2011, stated its support for LGBT travelers. Accordingly, it has issued travel guidelines specific to people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. Information specifically related to general, not LGBT-specific travel to Sochi is updated daily and can be found at the U.S. Embassy’s website or for information that does include an LGBT-specific section, use this link to view information on the U.S. Department of State’s travel website.

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